Friday, January 16, 2009

On The Road With The Ramones
Monte A Melnick and Frank Meyer

Originally released almost in conjunction with the End Of The Century documentary (featuring as it does many identical interview excerpts) back in 2003, this updated edition closes the chapter on The Ramones' long haul - from influential pacemakers toalso-rans to legendary elders -with the death of Johnny Ramone. As may be expected, and with true Ramones efficiency, this travelogue-cum-history traverses the rigmaroles of pretty much any band in any hemisphere - existing out on the edges, a few steps outta the trenches. Outlining the logistics as well as the lunacy, the striving and strife, practicalities and playfighting and the trouble and triumph behind the paper-thin veneer of their almost too-perfect image, tour manager Melnick pieces together the teeth-pulling terrors of keeping a band road-ready for two months never mind twenty-two years (with rare photos and tour momentos to go).
Set out thematically rather than chronologically, it does require a bit of page-flicking in consternation at its detours, which do, however, seem entirely suitable given the subject matter - and the character - of this psych-ward surfers and institution-trippers by any other name.
Despite the difficulty in gauging the sheer presence of the impossibly irrepressible and larger than life Dee Dee from the page alone (not for nothing does his replacement CJ put him in a league with Keith Richards as the only true rock'n'rollers), this is a rollicking tale of bittersweet reminiscence, succulent sour grapes and savage gracelessness.
Though that much-imitated cartoon image may have effectively cocooned them from more sympathetically tragic tales like the New York Dolls, as with the caricatures of Jagger's pragmatism to Richards' romantic itinerant troubadour, this generates as vast a gulf of respect for Johnny, no matter his egregious opinions and politics, as it does Joey's trod-upon tender heart and Dee Dee's gutter-level turmoil.
Encapsulating the gritty grandeur of rock's ruin-wracked roads, in the style of his charges' sub-two-minute staccato outburts, Melnick's illuminating oral history is a myth-melting handbrake-turn into the dark heart thatkeeps the beat rollin' on.
Stu Gibson

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